On Wednesday morning, Herrera became U.S. poet laureate for his prolific countless poems and inspirational work as an educator – but writing poems isn’t the only thing this Chicano can do. He’s a rockstar, actor, master bird-caller and so much more…
He’s the first Chicano to achieve this honor. And it’s kind of a big deal.
His parents came from Mexico after the Mexican Revolution of 1910 in search of the American Dream. During his youth, his family moved from tents to trailers, “crop to crop, field to field” so his parents could sustain work as field workers.
Like Breaking Bad‘s Walter White who kept Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in his bathroom, Juan Felipe Herrera also drew inspiration from Whitman’s works. Among his other inspirations were César Vallejo and Picasso.
He was punished for not being fluent in English. Then proved the haters wrong.
He recalls being punished in the first grade for not speaking perfect English. Fast-forward a few years and he went on to get degrees from UCLA and Stanford – and later become the U.S. Poet Laureate. How’s that for fluency?
His books of poetry resonate with audiences of all ages.
He attended UCLA, being amongst the first to receive an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) scholarship. There he was influenced by the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Luis Valdez and began performing in experimental theatre.
His uncle Roberto is an actor, community organizer, radio host and comedic theatre performer. His other uncle was a muralist and painter. His dad founded this church in Mesquite, New Mexico in the early 1930s.
There’s a reason why, in the age of television and Youtube, books continue to be read, loved, and adored by readers: when it comes to stories, books elevate the imagination in a way that can engage all of the senses. In times like these, where so many of us are in isolation and feeling alone, reading can, fortunately, do so much for the soul, and being apart of a book club (even if it is on Zoom) can help bring excitement to the monotony of our daily lives.
Fortunately, FIERCE Latinas are recommending book club suggestions as well as reads.
“I started a book club last year and while it’s small, our reads are mighty.” –steezplz
“I just finished “Clap When You Land.” I was never impressed by Acevedo until this book. It blew me away. She focuses more on trauma and grief in adolescence and it’s pretty damn near perfect. HIGHLY recommend.”- abbeyliz7
This club only reading books by Latinas.
“I started a book club with friends this year. We only read female authors from Latin America. So far, my favorites have been “Delirio” by Laura Restrepo and “Los recuerdos del porvenir” by Elena Garro.” –merimagdalen
“Always Running by Luis J Rodriguez was the first Chicano book I have ever read!!!!!” –valeriec01
This book club introducing readers to Chicano literature.
“Always Running by Luis J Rodriguez was the first Chicano book I have ever read!!!!” valeriec01
The new year has arrived, and it’s stacked with a batch of new books for readers to devour.
While good reads might not heal us from the pains and losses of 2020 or save us from the uncertainties that remain ahead in 2021, being able to take a break from reality through literary fantasy or illuminating nonfiction can be gratifying (and healthy!).
For those searching for titles to pre-order among the abundance of new works expected in 2021, we have you covered. From debuts by some of our generation’s most brilliant thinkers to anticipated novels you’ll get through in one sitting, here are some exciting books by Latinas and Latinxs you’ll want to add to your reading list.
1. One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite (January 5, 2021)
The highly anticipated novel One of the Good Ones, by Hatian-American sisters Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite, is a timely read about a teenage activist who is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally and the family that is left reeling after his death. Tackling police violence and sisterhood, the book, published by Inkyard Press on January 5, explores the impact of racism, prejudice and allyship.
2. We Are Here: Visionaries of Color Transforming the Art World by Jasmin Hernandez (February 2, 2021)
In We Are Here: Visionaries of Color Transforming the Art World, Dominican-American Jasmin Hernandez profiles 50 artists and art entrepreneurs of color who are challenging the status quo in the art world. Hernandez, founder of Gallery Gurls, interviews queer, Black and brown visionaries influencing communities from New York to Los Angeles, talking with them about their creative process and how they are creating a radically inclusive world across the entire art ecosystem. The book, which features stunning portraits of each artist, will publish on February 2.
3. Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado (February 2, 2021)
Puerto Rican author Crystal Maldonado’s Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is an exciting new addition to YA. The coming-of-age novel centers on a fat Latina girl living in a fatphobic white Connecticut suburb. Her mom wants her to lose weight. Society doesn’t love her brown skin. And her crush might be into her best friend. The book, which will be published by Penguin Random House on February 2, has been described as funny, charming and raw.
4. Infinite Country by Patricia Engel (February 23, 2021)
Patricia Engel’s Infinite Countryis a novel about a divided Colombian family. The book, which has been called “powerful” and “breathtaking,” tells the tale of Talia, a teen being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in Colombia, and a U.S.-based family fighting to be reunited with her. The novel, which will hit bookshelves on February 23, deals with yearning, family, belonging and sacrifice.
5. What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster (March 2, 2021)
Naima Coster, the Afro-Dominican author of Halsey Street, has another anticipated novel in What’s Mine and Yours. The book, dealing with issues of race, identity, family and legacy, centers on two families, one Black and one white, and how their lives become integrated and messy when a county initiative draws students from a largely Black town into predominantly white high schools. The book, set to publish by Grand Central Publishing on March 2, covers a span of 20 years, and it explores the ways families break apart and come back together.
6. The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende (March 2, 2021)
Award-winning author Isabel Allende returns in 2021 with The Soul of a Woman, a reflection on feminism, power and family rooted in the Chilean writer’s upbringing and experiences. The autobiographical work seeks to answer the question: What feeds the soul of feminists – and all women – today? For her, it’s safety, value, peace, resources, connection, autonomy and love, but these battles haven’t all yet been won. The inspirational read, which will be published by Ballantine Books on March 2, aims to ignite a fire in younger generations to continue to carry the work of feminism forward.
7. The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore (March 16, 2021)
In Mexican-American author Anna-Marie McLemore’s latest piece of YA magical realism, The Mirror Season, they tell the story of a young girl, Graciela, and boy, Lock, who were both assaulted at the same party. When Lock appears at Graciela’s school, she realizes he has no idea what happened to them. The pair develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly-magical pastelería, but Graciela, hoping to keep them both safe, hides the truth from her new friend – a secret that could tear them apart. The Mirror Season will be available at book shops on March 16.
8. Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia (March 31, 2021)
Cuban-Mexican author Gabriela Garcia’s debut Of Women and Salt, slated to release on March 31, has already got a lot of people excited. The novel takes place in present-day Miami, where Jeanette, who is battling addiction, seeks to learn more about her family history from her Cuban mother, Carmen, who is still wrestling with her own trauma of displacement. Hungry to understand, Jeanette travels to Cuba, where conversations with her grandmother force her to reckon with secrets from the past.
9. Dear Woke Brown Girl by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez (March 2021)
Nashville-based Nicaraguan writer and speaker Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez is among the most brilliant Latina thinkers of our generation. In Dear Woke Brown Girl, a forthcoming book inspired by a 2016 essay of the same title, the founder of Latina Rebels explores the inequalities of race, class and gender, discussing issues of code-switching, colorism, intersectional feminism, decolonization and more. The book, which will be published by Seal Press, is expected to hit bookstores in March.
10. When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez (Fall 2021)
Nuyorican poet and author Elisabet Velasquez’s YA debut When We Make It is a timely novel-in-verse that explores mental health, the war on drugs, gentrification, poverty and racism. Set in 1990s Bushwick, Brooklyn, the novel centers on Sarai, a first-generation Puerto Rican eighth-grader, who navigates the strain of mental illness, family trauma, toxic masculinity and housing insecurity while living with determination and love. When We Make It, published by Penguin Random House and expected to release in the fall, is a love letter to girls of color who were made to believe they would never make it.
11. Dreaming of You by Melissa Lozada-Oliva (Fall 2021)
Colombian-Guatemalan poet and author Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s Dreaming of You is a genre-bending verse novel about a young Latinx poet grappling with loneliness and heartache. The novel, which sees the teen bringing the Queen of Tejano Music Selena Quintanilla back to life through a seance, is an uncanny tale that interrogates Latinx identity, womanhood, obsession, disillusion and what it means to be seen. The book, coming from Astra House, is set to publish in the fall.